Local Sports Journal

At least Coach Dave Hulings has the comfort of knowing that his team can come from behind in pressure situations.

That skill may come in handy again before the state soccer tournament is over.

For most of the season his Western Michigan Christian girls soccer team has been winning by big margins.

So the No. 4-ranked Warriors were caught a bit flat-footed Thursday when a tough squad from Charlevoix had them on the ropes in the Division 4 regional finals.

But WMC’s Alyssa Benedict scored two goals, including the crucial tying goal late in regulation, to force the game to overtime.

Then four Warriors put the ball in the net in a dramatic overtime shootout, clinching a 3-2 victory and a regional title for Western Michigan Christian at Coast Guard Field in  Traverse City.

The Warriors, in pursuit of the first state title in program history, move on to play No. 2-ranked Grandville Calvin Christian in the state semifinals next Wednesday.

The game will be played at Cedar Springs High School at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to the Division 4 state title game.

Calvin Christian has eliminated the WMC girls from the state tournament two years in a row.

Charlevoix took a 1-0 halftime lead on a goal by Kylee Scholten about 15 minutes into the game.

“The first chance to score, and they did,” Hulings said. “They used the outside attack and took our defenders by surprise.”

WMC responded five minutes into the second half when Benedict made a strong effort on a pass from Kaylee Collins and tied the game 1-1.

Charlevoix took at 2-1 lead on a penalty kick by Elizabeth Way with 20 minutes left in regulation and threatened to put an end to the WMC season.

“All of our mistakes became evident because we played a very good team,” said Hulings. “They caught us by surprise. Not taking anything away from them, but we just weren’t ready.”

Benedict saved the day for WMC by scoring her second goal with about 7 ½  minutes remaining. Her deflection found the back of the net.

Her goal came on a one-timer from the right side from a Mykayla Denison crossing pass. The shot lifted over the goalkeeper and slipped just under the crossbar to tie the score, 2-2.

The two 10-minute overtime periods were scoreless, leading to the dramatic shootout.

The Warriors made their first four shots, with goals from Denison, Alexys Riksen, Benedict and the ultimate game winner from Mikaela Erickson.

Charlevoix missed its first shot and was denied by WMC goalie Lindsey Johnson on its third shot, which gave Erickson a shot at clinching the victory.

“Charlevoix had played in a shootout on Tuesday so they were worn a bit,” Hulings said. “Our conditioning, and the fact that we didn’t play in OT on Tuesday, gave us more legs in the shootout, I think.”